Published On: Tue, Jan 28th, 2014

Solebury man receives ‘grandparent scam’ call Tuesday; police advise caution, offer tips

phoneA Solebury man received a phone call Tuesday from an unknown party, who asked for “grandpop,” and then said, “This is your grandson Michael.”

The Solebury resident asked the caller to repeat his name, and the caller again said “Michael.” The suspicious resident then asked the caller for his last name, which the caller mispronounced. What the caller didn’t know was that the Solebury resident he had reached didn’t have a grandson named Michael — that was his nephew’s name. The resident insisted several more times that the caller identify himself properly, and the caller terminated the call.

The story is a familiar one to law enforcement personnel — “the grandparent scam” is yet another type of fraud that targets older people, in particular by taking advantage of their love and concern for their grandchildren.

In this case the scammers did poor homework, and the resident did a good job of asking lots of questions, according to Solebury Township Police Corporal Jonathan M. Koretzky.

He advises area residents to ask a lot of questions when they get a call that sounds suspicious, and to not transfer money for any reason to a caller you’re not completely sure about. The scam has been around for years, but it’s gotten worse, and Koretzky wants local residents to be more aware and warn their family members, now that it’s struck in our neighborhood.

Here’s some helpful tips from the FBI:

“You’re a grandparent, and you get a phone call or an e-mail from someone who identifies himself as your grandson. ‘I’ve been arrested in another country,’ he says, ‘and need money wired quickly to pay my bail. And oh by the way, don’t tell my mom or dad because they’ll only get upset!’

“But the scam and scam artists have become more sophisticated. Thanks to the Internet and social networking sites, a criminal can sometimes uncover personal information about their targets, which makes the impersonations more believable. For example, the actual grandson may mention on his social networking site that he’s a photographer who often travels to Mexico. When contacting the grandparents, the phony grandson will say he’s calling from Mexico, where someone stole his camera equipment and passport.

“Common scenarios include:

“A grandparent receives a phone call (or sometimes an e-mail) from a “grandchild.” If it is a phone call, it’s often late at night or early in the morning when most people aren’t thinking that clearly. Usually, the person claims to be traveling in a foreign country and has gotten into a bad situation, like being arrested for drugs, getting in a car accident, or being mugged…and needs money wired ASAP. And the caller doesn’t want his or her parents told.

“Sometimes, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital, or some other person. And we’ve also received complaints about the phony grandchild talking first and then handing the phone over to an accomplice…to further spin the fake tale. We’ve also seen military families victimized: after perusing a soldier’s social networking site, a con artist will contact the soldier’s grandparents, sometimes claiming that a problem came up during military leave that requires money to address.

“While it’s commonly called the grandparent scam, criminals may also claim to be a family friend, a niece or nephew, or another family member. What to do if you have been scammed? The financial losses in these cases—while they can be substantial for an individual, usually several thousand dollars per victim—typically don’t meet the FBI’s financial thresholds for opening an investigation. Contact your local police.”

 

 

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